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Burial Hex - In Psychic Defense

In Psychic Defense is the second collection of out-of-print tracks from Burial Hex on Cold Spring. The previous Cold Spring compilation Book of Delusions brought together some of Burial Hex's vinyl albums including split releases with Kinit Her and Zola Jesus, In Psychic Defense offers a round-up of Burial Hex's subsequent releases including 12-inches, singles and compilation tracks. It further offers an insight into Burial Hex's progression within their cycle of work, alongside their self-styled horror electronics that they are renowned for.

The first two tracks are taken from single sided 12-inches and while they are fine examples of Burial Hex's dark sound - some passages allow Burial Hex to explore other musical avenues quite far removed from the horror electronic tag that usually accompanies their work. The CD takes its title from a single sided 12-inch release where Clay Ruby and Troy Schafer, indulge in a hymn in praise of the archangel Michael. Ruby's commanding voice intones the words over slow lumbering bass tones, light glimmers of keyboards and tinkering electronic rhythms, with a guitar line snaking through the airy dark melodies. It all goes quiet before it reawakens with gentle ambient wash, which is almost new-age with soft oriental type notes, despite the occasional deep grumblings lurking underneath. Adding slight metal percussion, atmospheric grating and spartan death beats the heavyset croak more redolent of black metal surfaces before transforming into a whisper as it picks up the loose bass tones and rhythms of the beginning before ending up into almost disco territory. Yet it's not the only track to dabble with dance beats. You can hear it on the end section of 'Hunger' but before that it flows from soft glinting synths and rolling hand percussion which act as a backdrop to Ruby's recitation of an Arthur Rimbaud poem. Delivered in that scorching growl, which I wish they would drop, the words could be taken from anything. With a voice so croaked, the words are indiscernible, but as the synths dissipate it reinvents itself with a marimba type rhythm, performed akin to an oriental music box, with whispered chatter underneath. It's at this point Burial Hex catch you off-guard; an electro beat pulses, throbbing in a way like Psychic TV's 'OV Power' as it slips into an almost eighties club type sound complete with slap bass. It's pretty good stuff, similar in a way to Psychic TV's Mouth of the Night soundtrack or the post-industrial funk of 400 Blows, 23 Skidoo.

In Psychic Defense gets even better with the two cuts from Burial Hex's contributions to the Reue Um Reue series of electronic interpretations of the work of J.S. Bach. It's perhaps no surprise to find Burial Hex are admirers of Bach; many Burial Hex tracks are built around classical piano and chamber piano scores. But rather than rework Bach's music Burial Hex offer two original cuts influenced by piano motifs from the composer. Opening with rolling timpani drums and orchestral fanfare 'Fantasie' is quickly reconfigured with stuttered techno rhythms and analogue sequences more redolent of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop - as is 'Und Fuge' which is undoubtedly more "switched-on". Both cuts offer a new direction for Burial Hex and if it wasn't for the doomy scorching vocal, then these tracks would see Burial Hex being namechecked alongside the likes of Broadcast, Death and Vanilla and any of the affiliates of the Ghost Box label. Yep they're that good.

Burial Hex's remix of Pyramids, 'To Birth The Rotted Sun', isn't too dissimilar to their work found on the split release with Kinit Her. Here scorching throat-shredding vocals rasp over a melodic piano composition riddled with thunderous percussion before moving into more melancholic realms. '[Or: War]' opts for a darker ritual sound with grating nightmare electronics punctuated by chants and bursts of frequencies surrounding Ruby's desolate croaked tones. While '[Or: War]' is ominous, 'The Tower' is all heaving swirling synths and tinkering rhythms, anchored around a sort of prog rock bass, which again took me by surprise. That bass played by Shane Herwey performed in a loose freeform style is quite unlike anything we get this way, but the other elements are distinctly Burial Hex. The two final tracks are taken from a 7-inch single from Release the Bats limited to a mere 100 copies.

Clay Ruby has already sounded the death knell for his Burial Hex project; believing after the release of Final Mysteries their work is complete. In Psychic Defense in compiling their extra-curricular activities shows a band willing to experiment, accentuating elements within their sound. At times, and I know it is intrinsic to their sound but I wish they'd forego the black metal type howling vocals, but the sounds Burial Hex produce are always fascinatingly inventive. In Psychic Defense rounds up some truly inventive supplemental tracks. I look forward to Final Mysteries and the final instalment of Burial Hex but I do wonder what Clay Ruby will do next. Great stuff. For more information go to Cold Spring